PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — That 15-foot birdie putt Phil Mickelson made on the final hole at Quail Hollow meant more than an extra $130,000 for finishing in second place alone.
It put him in position to become No. 1 in the world.
Mickelson could reach the top spot in the world ranking for the first time in his career by winning The Players Championship, provided Tiger Woods finishes out of the top five.
Of the players considered to be the “Big Four” of this generation – Woods, Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els – Mickelson is the only player to have never been No. 1.
The Quail Hollow Championship had already been decided when Mickelson came to the 18th hole in a tie for second with Angel Cabrera, five shots behind winner Rory McIlroy. The final birdie that made him solo runner-up gave him enough extra points for a chance to rise to No. 1 at the TPC Sawgrass.
Woods, who missed the cut last week for only the sixth time in his career, has been No. 1 the last five years.
Mickelson is trying to become only the 13th player to be No. 1 since the rankings began in 1986, and he has momentum on his side. He won The Players Championship two years ago, and he is coming off a Masters victory and a runner-up finish at Quail Hollow.
“I’m glad that this first tournament went well, because after a couple weeks off after a big high like Augusta, you never know where the game is going to be at,” Mickelson said Sunday. “And the way that I played and kept the ball in play and hit good shots, I’m looking forward to next week.”
Woods is coming off the highest 36-hole score of his career at Quail Hollow. He shot a 79 in the second round – the second-highest round as a pro – and missed the cut by eight shots.
Woods arrived on Monday for a practice round with Rod Pampling.
It is rare for Woods to show up at regular PGA Tour events on Monday, although he said last week before leaving Quail Hollow that his home course at Isleworth is torn up at the moment because of renovations.
This is the second time in the last two years that Woods’ top ranking was on the line. Last year at Doral, Sergio Garcia could have become No. 1 with a victory in the World Golf Championship provided Woods was 27th or worse. In that situation, however, Woods had never finished out of the top 10 at Doral.
While he won The Players Championship in 2001, this is the only tournament where Woods has finished out of the top 20 at least five times. Last year, he played in the final group (five shots behind Alex Cejka), but closed with a 73 to finish eighth.